Enjoying nature everyday keeps the doctor away

Posted by Sara King BSc (Hons) AIEEM on 23/01/2013

We all know the benefits of enjoying the countryside and fresh air. A stroll through the countryside, along the banks of a canal or to the local park can improve our mood, reduce stress and help keep off those unwanted pounds. However, now an American tool has been developed to illustrate the link between human health and natural habitats.

The tool is called Eco-Health Relationship Browser and looks at different habitats, from wetlands to woodlands, and their positive impacts on human health and wellbeing. It has been developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and illustrates the links between human health and natural environments.

Natural habitats can provide a variety of positive services, and many habitats are used regularly every day. Some benefits are obvious - good exercise and relaxing within beautiful, quiet locations. Other benefits, however, may not be so obvious, such as air filtration (reducing the amount of pollution in the area), and benefits to protected species.

The importance of incorporating green space within development schemes, from small to large projects, is therefore very important for the long-term users. Including nature conservation and recreational areas does not have to be expensive, and does not have to make a project uneconomical. Incorporating green spaces within a masterplan at an early stage can ensure that these areas do not affect the overall build area, but contributes to the quality and appearance of the development. Increasing the amount of green space within an development will also increase the likelihood of planning approval for a scheme. It can also provide important mitigation for protected species, therefore reducing the need for further mitigation measures within the scheme. Nature conservation can be a benefit to development schemes, and improve the quality of life for future occupants and users.